Monday, November 28, 2005

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 6 - The Fields

November 27, 2005

Hindsight sure is an interesting thing.... or maybe I should say "It's incredible how little rational thought occurs during a cross race". As soon as today's race was over, I had a plan for how to attack each tough section faster. Too little, too late though.

Race 6 of the October/Lake Effect cyclocross series, and the second day of racing in a row. We're back at the fields, and after trashing the wet sections of the park yesterday, todays course includes lots of pavement... and some double track through the woods. It's still pretty wet, so it'll be another interesting race. 


The Course 

Like yesterday, we return to the same park. This time, they routed the course to miss most of the worst sections from yesterday except one. We started in the parking lot on the far side of the park. Instead of doing grass section, we rode around the lot, and had a log to hop to get to the first field were we went over the fastest grass section from yesterday. This brought us straight into the woods where the double track was pretty muddy, with large puddles, slick mud climbs, and some rolling humps. It even had some running water down the trail in one section and across it in another.

On the exit from the woods, we traversed a mud/water bog that took us to the sweeping turn to the gravel decent from yesterday. Across the bridge, and up the Belgian gravel hill. Across the parking lot, and around baseball fields on the concrete path. All pavement around the fields, to a snappy switchback, 180 degree turn down the road hill, back up the hill on other side (that we also climbed yesterday), and across the lot through a quick turn around to the start finish.

This course was short, at about one and one eighth mile. The addition of the woods has been decisive in the past here, and I didn't expect anything different. The temperature was somewhere in the 40s, so all the snow and ice we had yesterday was melted or melting and everything was very wet. The forecast was for scattered showers... so it wasn't going to dry out anytime soon.

B/C Race

25 B racers toed the line. They started out with a 4:52 first lap, so we'd be going around a lot today. Short, fast laps means people (including me in my race) will be getting lapped.

Brett was contemplating the single speed mountain bike today. But the decent on the road would have him spun out with the gearing on it, so he decided on the 'cross bike with the most aggressive tire he had. His race started out well, though I think the bogs and the climbs took their toll. Brett ended up third behind points leader Matt Weeks, and Solon Bikes Erick Lesco. This puts Brett and Eric even on points heading into the series final next week. Double points up for grabs, Brett has to beat Eric to get second place, and Matt Litzler may be able to reenter the battle with a good ride.


After the B's did a couple of laps, I took a spin around the course. With all the pavement, I had intended on going back to the Tufo's but as I tried to get through the mud in the woods I changed my mind. Michelin Muds for today. I'd leave the Tufo's in the pits. I also threw the mountain bike in there, and joked I should take a bike change before the woods, and then again right after. The pits were almost in the right place for it too. Hindsight... might have been a better bike for today, though I'm still not 100% convinced of that.

After yesterdays overheating, and with todays temps being higher, I decided to dress a bit lighter. One sleeveless base layer, standard short sleeve jersey and arm warmers. Knickers, smart wool and normal Sidi's. No skull cap today, so I wouldn't be stripping.

A Race

I did a light warm up to get the legs turning over. Right in the middle I realized that I had pinned my number to the wrong side of my jersey... so I cut it a bit short to get dressed correctly.

My wife again gave me an "order" to get a place. She wants sixth today. With 8 starters lining up for the A race, I might be able to do that or better. With the short laps, I had expected to get lapped, but one of the non-starters was Paul Martin. So far in order to lap me, you had to be in front of Paul. In 4 races, I've held him off twice, and been beaten twice. Maybe I can make it on the lead lap today.

Paul was the only rider in the top 8 to not show up, so we had the 7 regulars racing against each other. There was one addition, though he was 3 laps down yesterday, and would be a non-factor in todays race was well. At the whistle we're off for 12 laps.

Around the parking lot and to the log crossing, and I'm fifth over the log. John Lorson does an endo behind me holding up the back three, and the rest of us are away. The fast section yesterday has thawed today, so it's a bit slower. If we stay to the right though it's still pretty solid, so we head into the woods.

I'm on Rudy Sroka's wheel into the woods, and holding pretty well. Actually, I'm thinking I'm better in here than he is as he's holding me up a bit. I make it out of the woods as Lorson catches back on, and we have 6 together... except that Ernie and Ross have started to open a bit of a gap. Down the decent and up the climb and things are starting to open a bit more.

As we come around the start finish, I see Ross has a gap on Ernie! He's also quite a way in front of me. I'm still following Lorson, Rudy and Zak have opened a bit of a gap. As we hit the log, John hops it on the low point, and I follow suit. Thus starts my first serious mistake. I make it clean, but get bogged down in the mud on the other side. It's a slow pedal for about 20 meters to something solid before I can accelerate again. The mistake is I don't learn from that, and continue to try the hop for the remainder of the race.

Second time through the woods, and Lorson has a gap opened up. I'm thinking "let the bike float" as I ride through this stuff. It's a bit rooty, and very wet. I'm braking a lot to make it through the turns, and then slogging through the very muddy sections. I'm able to ride it all though, and come out with the same gap. The bog right outside of the woods is getting deep. I think my pedals are almost touching the ground as the wheels sink in looking for something solid. Once out of that, find the high ground for the turn to the descent.

I end up drilling the descent pretty well. I'm running the brakes a little at the top to clear the rims so I can slow enough to make the turn at the bottom. Then power up the other side best that I can. The Belgians weren't out today, and I missed them and the cowbells. 12 times up that climb without screaming fans was a bit rougher than the 6 trips I'd done the day before.

At the top I was trying to get my cadence up as quick as possible. Shift into the big ring and spins some more. Once around the two corners at the far side of the field, I did a sprint to get back up to speed. I was holding my speed through the corner to the switchback that pointed us back down the hill. Once through that, I'd hammer it again to get moving as quickly as possible and try to carry my speed through the climb on the other side. At the top, I'd recover through the start finish turn around, then start pushing it again to the log....

Sixth place. Lorson had a small gap on me, and I had a gap to Jeff in seventh. Third time over the log, I bunny hop it and my front wheel sinks into the mud on the other side. No endo, but it's slow going, then I realize I'm still in the big ring as I try to power through the mud. Drop the gear, and get it moving. Lorson has opened the gap a bit more. I think I forgot to shift at least half the trips over that log...

Through the woods, and I'm loosing time in the mud there too. There are three really bad sections. A climb I take up some running water is fine, but once past a tree the mud gets nasty until we hopped some logs. Once past the logs, there was a section that was really wet, and the wheels dug way into again. Up over a weird hump that I couldn't find a line over, and then through another wet muddy bog rise that was a grind to get over.

So it seemed I was making up time with my tactics on the pavement, descents and climbs, but I was loosing time in the woods and grass. As the laps went by I was holding the gap to Lorson pretty steady. Jeff was having a hard time, and after holding the gap close for a while, disappeared after 4 or 5 laps.

OK, high points of the race. Another teammate of mine, Brian brought his son out to spectate. He was somewhere between 4 and 5 and every time I passed them he was screaming "Come one, John". Very fun, almost better then the big section on the hill yesterday. There were still quite a few people out, which helped loads also.

6 laps down, and Lorson is starting to open the gap. I'm having more and more trouble with the log crossing and the woods. I'm not seeing Jeff except for the one field crossing, and he's way back. Then I see Ernie starting to come up on me. So it looks like I may not finish on the lead lap after all. These mountain bikers are killing me in the woods.

I can still see Lorson, but just barely. I've got some work to do. Try to stay clean and see if I can eat into the gap. Push the pavement, float the woods. 5 to go, Ernie is gaining. Looks like I'll get lapped again soon. I can't let that get me though. I'm not racing against Ernie really. I need to stay ahead of Jeff and try to bring back Lorson.

Down the gravel decent and up the climb, except I threw my chain, and can't get it back on at the bottom. So I hop off, and put it on... very clumsy though, and it goes to the big ring, so I stall instantly. Off, spin into a reasonable gear and hop back on to do the climb. That won't help me any where.

Once at the top, Ernie is pretty close. Then I make yet another mistake and let him come around me on the pavement. I probably lost a few seconds by slowing so he could come around, then I'm sitting on his wheel as we go around the corners... where I was pushing to get up to speed, Ernie is doing some recovery. I'm not going as fast through this as I was before... I hold his wheel and decide I'm not going to let him slow me down on the decent. I use the speed there to help me up the other side. Once around the switchback I hammer it again, leaving Ernie behind for the moment.

In the parking lot, I again slow, and let Ernie by. 3 to go now. I'm really being too nice here, I should have kept my pace, and let him keep his. Oh well, I did see him run the log... he ran a long way to get past the mud. Then a light bulb goes off... I should be running this. OK, I'll cover this two more times, I'll run it.

Through the woods, and Ernie leaves me behind. I really would have liked to follow him through to see his lines and learn, but he's too fast. I picked up most of the lines, by noting new tracks, but nothing like following someone who is really good. Ross is also catching me, and passes me right before we come out of the woods. Again, I'm really concerned with not holding him up, so I purposely take a really bad line to get out of the way.

OK, 2 and a half laps to go... and the mountain bikers are ahead of me. Now it's for pride again. John Lorson is mostly out of sight, Jeff is gone behind... so I'm really racing for time now. I'm effectively racing against the B's but doing it an hour and a half later. I run the log the last two times, and it really is faster. I survive through the woods and hammer on the pavement.

I easily cross the line for sixth place, just like my wife wanted. I'm so accommodating. Results have me 2 minutes behind Ross. 2 minutes down to the mountain bikes in 2 and a half laps! Average times put Lorson close to 2:40 in front of me. I'm guessing Ernie almost caught him, but not quite.


Time  1:04:38
11 laps
12.42 miles
34.4 mph

As I crossed the line, Ernie asked if I was third. HAH, that would have been nice! Third across the line, but one lap down. Must have been oxygen debt. I was glad I made him pass me twice though. Personal victory. Take them where I can.

After the race, Brian's son saw me. I thanked for all the cheering. He asked if I won! I told him not quite, but I got a top 10, and it was all because of his "GO John!" cheering. He didn't think the mud all over me looked like much fun though. Maybe I don't remember what it's like being 4. I thought I would have loved to get all muddy at 4. Maybe it was the muddy teeth that turned him off.

One of my fast buddies has told me that a big motor always wins over technical skills in cross. Today's results show that you can only hold that so far. The two expert mountain bikers killed the field in todays conditions. Ernie has a bigger motor and better skills than Ross. Once Ross saw Ernie's lines though, he was able to hold on and limit it to a 30 second gap.

Doing the lap averages, my time would have gotten me in 15th in the B race. I'll make excuses again. Racing alone would have been different than racing with the B's. So I hope I could have been at least top 10.

Cross is a game of limiting losses, and I was not doing very well at that at all. This year I feel like I'm learning to race all over again. In hindsight, I should have known I was loosing time at the log, and should be running that. There were probably two or three other running spots in the woods that would have save me tons of time. Right after the race, I half joked that I would have been faster running the woods section, and I probably should have run half of it. I also should have preridden it more, and found out where to hop off and hoof it.

Overall, I'm not too disappointed with the race. I felt good about the pavement sections, and handling the drops. I had plenty left at the end of the race, to continue to power through stuff and sprint in the places I wanted to. In a way, I was glad that I could ride everything through the woods, even if I would have been faster running some of it. Must be the mountain biker part of me.

OK, I'm in 6th on points, 21 points behind Ross and Paul. I need 7th, and one of them to not show next week in order to move up... not likely. Actually, since next week is double points, I need 15th if one of them doesn't show. I'm not going to count on a no show though. Jeff is in 7th place 8 points back, and Lorson is in 8th 17 points back. So as long as I finish where I have been, I should hold onto 6th place. Payout is to 5 places, so 6th is the first loser... but it gives me a goal for next year.

Next week we're back in Copley at the Boughton Farm. I've had my best race there this year. I mean feeling best, happiest with my race, not the best place. I'm hopping to repeat that next week. My goal for next week is to race smart. Run, carry and sprint when I should. Do what I used to know to do last year, and race clean. It's my last race of the year, I'm hoping to end with no regrets.

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 5 - The Fields

November 26, 2005

Snow Day! Week 4 of the series, and yes I can count. The fourth race was supposed to be on Friday but was canceled as a winter storm warning was posted Thursday evening. The day ended up not bad, but the racing would have been wicked windy. Fortunately, we had 3 races scheduled this weekend, so canceling one would not cause to much withdrawal from the cyclocross fix. It actually helped the family front, as I still will be gone for 2 of the 4 afternoons over the holiday weekend.

So Race 5 on Saturday. The weather forecast calls for 30-40 degrees with scattered snow showers up until the start of the B race at noon. We got more snow over night, so there was about 3-4 inches on the course when I arrived. This will be an interesting race day.

The Course 

This is our first race at The Fields in Broadview Heights this year. The Fields is a sport field complex with about 4 soccer fields and 6 baseball fields. They are laid out with one low soccer field between two higher sections, so there is some really nice terrain to negotiate. There are also some trails through the woods in one section that we've used in the past.

Because of the weather today, we skipped the woods, and basically traversed around the sport fields. We started in a muddy corner, and wound our way around and between two baseball fields, mixing some pavement in for fun. Then we hit a nice dropping corner that lead to a chute taking us down to the lower field. Another quick left and we started looping around the field. First we had to go by the bottom of the sledding hill, fortunately it was well marshaled. Then complete the three sides before dumping off onto the road to climb to the next level.

The climb was on pavement, but the grassy approach section pretty much sapped all speed. So it was a grind to the top, when we went back onto grass/snow to complete the last 5 foot rise to the field level. Around the parking lot to the grass, and more slogging around the soccer fields.

Once through those fields, we took a sweeping turn to line up with a gravel decent, cross the bridge and then climb back to the start finish level. Cross a parking lot and some pavement, and then back into the grass around the last field to complete the lap.

The snow made this course today. During warm up, before the B/C race, we were working through 4 inches trying to find something solid, or packed down to get some speed. I was figuring that the early race would groom the course and the A race would be on some solid footing... we'll see.

B/C Race

Plan for the day was 5 laps for the B's and 3 laps for the C's. I did a warm up lap at 11+ minutes, so I figured the estimates should be pretty close, though maybe a little short for the faster B's.

The start was through a very wet section of the course. At the whistle, one guy decide to just run it... and he ended up in second place by doing it. A few crashes at the start and one of my buddys was already at the back with technical trouble. Went around for half the lap with his wheel rubbing on his frame... I've done that before, but in a road race, not through the snow.

Once again, the order was mixed up as the course conditions again dictated the race. Matt Litzler from Spin battled with series leader from October/Lake Effect, Matt Weeks. Weeks got confused with 2 to go, thinking the bell for a C racer they were passing was for the B race. So he pushed it a bit to hard, to early. Litzler then was able to get clear on the real bell lap for the win. Erick Lesco from Solon Bicycles beat out my Snakebite Racing teammate, Brett for third when he made a similar mistake.


Word on the course was that the lower field was really bad... not quite peanut butter, but it sucked the life out of you. The other word was you don't need as much clothing as you think. Being a snow race in the lower 30's, I'll document my decisions on clothing.

I decided to go with the knickers only on the bottom. I coated my exposed skin liberally with baby oil to try to keep any moisture from sticking to me. On top, a tank base layer, a long sleeve base layer, a wind jacket and a wind vest. I wore a pair of smart wool socks, with a second pair of gore type socks over that, then my normal Sidi Doms. I dropped the PI AmFib gloves, and went for the full finger cyclones. A little thinner, but not too heavy. I topped it all off with a light skull cap that also covered my ears.

With the snow/mud, I decided to leave the wheels with the Tufo tub/clinchers in the pit and run the Michelin Mud 2s. I figured they'd work better in the thicker stuff with a bit of knob. Since I'm sitting in sixth place on the points series, I also brought the mountain bike. If anything breaks, I still really want to finish. It's hard to maintain anything when you get a 0. With today's weather, it may have been faster to ride the wider tires. I decided to stick with the cross bike though... it is cross season after all.

A Race

So we lined up right at 1:30. I was a bit cold, but my warm up laps, and previous experience assured my I'd be warm soon enough. The field had 16 including some fast guys I've seen before. 7 laps, 1.3 miles or so long. No disillusion on a top 5 today. I'm hoping to avoid getting lapped again. I lined up at the back and on the whistle we're off.

Well, that was the plan. We started in a bog, so it was a bit slow going at the start. It turns out the B race had turned most of the snow covered course into a mucky mess. We were slogging through really thick stuff all over the place.

I got a slow start, not that I was gunning for anything else. So I was behind the guys I wanted to be with by the time we got to the lower field. In fact, looking back, Gorman and I were at the back of the field save 1... that we couldn't see already. As we hit the paved climb, we were close to the guys that I normally race against with a twist. One of the super fast guys (well, he is on the road anyway) was basically going backwards. We go to the last little snow covered rise, and I was on his wheel, when he went down. I came off and found myself stepping on the rear wheel of a Colnogo. We all got moving fast enough, but it was clear I did not want to be behind this guy. So I pulled Gorman and I around.

It turns out there were 4 really slow muddy/mucky sections. One about 150 meters right before the finish line (that we started in). A section about 200 meters around the back and far side of the lower soccer field. A section about 20 meters long at the close corner of the upper fields, and another about 50 meters long at the last corner of the field. The two slower sections on this field were offset some by one of the fastest sections along the far side. About 100 meters of iced path that we could really get moving on.

Somehow by the time we got here we had pulled back a few guys a bit ahead of us, including Jeff from Honey-Stinger. He was 4 points behind me in the series, so I need to be in front of him. Then Gorman came around me. So my goal now was to hold onto him as long as I could. Maybe he'd pull me away from the other guys and pull me up a place. I'm hoping my power/technical riding is the right combination for these conditions. There are still two guys ahead that I've beaten before. So I'd like to get up to them.

Through for the first lap, and onto the second... It's not long before Gorman starts to pull away, and I'm left with one guy I don't know and Jeff on my wheel. I'm trying to hold close so the gap up front doesn't get too big. Around the lower section, and we loose Jeff... I think his chain came off, and he had a time getting it back on. So I'm left with one guy. Around the upper field and he's right on me. As we hit the sweeping turn and I slide out... the guy behind me goes down also. I popped back up fast enough, apologize quickly and I'm away. With a nice gap to boot. I've got to check my brakes before that turn from now on.

Down the gravel, and over the bridge, and onto the climb... and into a mob of crazy Belgians!??!!!  This was the best part of this race. About a dozen or so guys from the B race stayed and spectated the A race. For the first two or three laps they were all over the course. Screaming and ringing cow bells. How cool is that! By the later laps they had all congregated on the climb back to the start finish. It was great and really motivated us to power up the climb. They could see the lower soccer field and would cheer guys there if no one was on the climb. Very much fun. I wonder if there was beer there, cause I felt like it was the tent.

This was pretty much it for the remainder of the race. The guy behind me would close the gap a few times, but I was able to reopen it. Gorman pulled in one other guy, but was pretty much stuck there. I could see them, but only when I hit some of the open fields. I kept looking for the fastest ways through the bogs... but from the tracks, it looked like no one was finding anything good.

Lap 4 I had opened the gap behind me to about 200 meters or so. But I was overheating. I should have taken off the long sleeve base layer before the start. I was unzipping my layers, but it wasn't enough. I didn't want to stop to strip, so I had to think of something else. Since you loose the most heat through your head, I figured I might be able to pull off my cap. It turns out my helmet was just loose enough that I was able to do it. I stuffed it in my sleeve to carry it around to the start. Then as I was climbing the hill, I figured I'd give the guys a thrill, and tossed it off to Brett. Someone made a comment about boobies, so my goal was achieved. And I was cooling off nicely to boot.... and the Belgians were getting louder.

Snow is such an interesting addition to cyclocross races. I've raced in mud, where it sticks to the brakes, and clogs the wheels. But add snow, and it gets really thick. The brakes don't work well or catch ice and it feels like they are rubbing. I think I was carrying an extra 10 pounds of frozen mud  on the bike. I was continually sticking my fingers near the brakes to knock the stuff away from the wheels so they'd spin. I was getting pretty good at it, twice a lap or so. At the start finish, and on the road climb were good places, as we'd just come through some mucky parts.

Through the start finish with 3 to go. I've got a nice gap behind me, but I'm loosing site of the guys in front of me. I figure I'm about half a lap down on the leaders, and I'm actually having a good time. Even if I haven't brought anyone else back. I'm ahead of Jeff, the guy close to me in points, so I should gain at least 2 points. That will be enough.

I've still got a few hundred meters on the guy behind me as I head into the lower field. Through the bog, and I hear someone on my wheel! Woah! Lapped. I never saw the guy coming, and it's not Paul Martin. It's a former world MTB champion. OK, Now I've got two to go. I've got to get over being lapped, and continue to work. If that guy is faster than Paul, I can live with getting lapped again. I looked back and the guy chasing me is hiking the bike through the field, so I've got a chance to hold him off. I don't see anyone else in either direction yet. Power up the hill and hold on! 

At the top of the hill, I dismounted to try to knock some weight off... the bike weighed a ton. Back on, and see if I can make up more ground. Coming around the field, I see foot prints in the snow. Someone is hiking here? Then I see a guy carrying. I ask if he's OK... he blew his derailluer by picking up a course flag. Long walk back to the start finish from here.

Man the lead guy is WAY out in front. He's putting time into me like what! OK, can I hold everyone else off? Through the Belgians, and they are cheering like crazy. Around the slog, and it's one to go. Paul is closing in, so I'm looking back, and forward at the same time. I give him a path, and now I need to go. No one else.... maybe I can bring someone else back.

Last time up the climb, and the guys are getting really loud. I thought I might get missed as they were cheering for the soccer field when I was climbing the hill for the last time. But they didn't dissappoint. To the top and around to the finish. I made it through the finish before getting caught by anyone else.


Time  56:42
6 laps
8.23 miles
20.6 mph

Doing the lap averages, my time would have gotten me 7th in the B race. Again all things weren't equal and this time, I think the course conditions really deteriorated for the A race making it slower. So I'm not going to count that as a true position, I figure I could have been top 5 at least.

I also figured I was about 3 minutes behind the guy that got 10th place...  so my power riding or slop riding is still way to slow. Either that or I just don't know how to find lines through this kind of stuff. The only way I'm going to learn that is if I can get fast enough to race with some of these guys for extended periods of time. Next year I'm thinking a top 5 finish as good goal. Its something to train for.

There are about 3 guys that could pass me in the points race if they just show up. One of them blew out his derailluer today. Another one won the race. There are two other guys that could beat me if I blow up and they have good rides. So that will keep me going. The only way I can make top 5 in points is if someone misses one of the last two races. Highly unlikely since payout is for the top 5. So we'll see how this thing all plays out.

OK... now it's time to recover... because the next race is TOMORROW!!!! At the same place. And conditions will not improve, as it's supposed to get warmer and rain. It's really cyclocross weather now. 52 and raining. What will I have to wear for that?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 3 - Bay Village

November 19, 2005

Week 3 of the series, and the weather has turned in Cleveland. It screwed up my training, as my off day was the one nice day of the week, then I didn't ride on the other days because of the forecasts... which didn't materialize the way I had anticipated. That and life collaborated to give me a total of 50 minutes on the bike since last Sunday's race.

Forecast for today was sunny and 45. We've been in the 20s for the last 3 days, and the race day weather is almost balmy. Evidently some people didn't appreciate it, as we had lower turn outs this week. 


The Course 

We return to Cahoon park in bay village. We were here for race 1 of the series, and it hasn't changed much. They did add a nice little twisty section heading toward the run up that had the effect of scrubbing any speed you had to carry into the hill.

Even though we've had some snow, the course was only moist in the grassy sections.

B/C Race 

Very different results in the B field. With 32 racers, down from low 40s, series leader Matt Weeks and Jeff Craft racing down for the week went off the front after two laps. A chase group of 4 including my teammate Brett and the other top B riders worked the whole race to bring them back to no avail. Behind them the normal placings were pretty mixed up.

In the end Matt powered away from Jeff in the last section. Brett was in the thick but had nothing left and rolled in for sixth.

Pat was also working with one guy throughout the race, and ended up in 14th for the day.

A Race

 I tell you, it's really hard moving up. The last two weeks watching more than half the field power away from me in the first lap has been pretty humbling. So, when they posted the last weeks results, I went into analysis mode. I took my average lap times, and compared them to the B race length. All things being equal (they wouldn't be, but I have to start somewhere) I had good enough times to win the B race. So I guess I'm in the right place.

I had a good race last week, aside from still not making it to the mid pack placings. So I was hoping to improve more this week. My wife had even predicted eighth place, based on my previous 12th, and 10th. I called her right before we started and joke about there only being 9 racers in the A field... imagine my surprise when there really were only 9 on the line.

 Since I had gone pretty well last week, my goal was to push it a bit harder in the first lap, and see if I could hang on a bit longer. I'm going to try to remember how I started in this silly game. Chasing all the fast B's 2 years ago.

So I'm the first guy to line up. Not that it matters with only 9 racers. The last guy to the line is local super fast, Paul Martin. My race will be against Jeff from Honey-Stinger and John Lorson from Orrville. If I'm going really well, I might make it up to Ross from Solon again, but I'm not optimistic since he's feeling much better today than last week.

Off we go, and I'm fifth in the line around the first set of turns. I'm feeling comfortable and I'm going to work to hang on. It's not long before Paul comes through and starts the action at the front. By half way through the first lap, I'm in seventh with Jeff right behind me, and John opening up a gap in front of me. Through the barriers, Jeff comes around me, and I'm fighting to hold on.

Through the first lap, and I'm recovering a bit, so I come around Jeff and tell him we can catch Lorson. Then I get to real work. Through the whole second lap, my heart rate was pretty high, but we made progress as I pulled to within about 100 meters of John. Then I let Jeff come around, and my intent is to hold his wheel as he finishes the job. Unfortunately, my legs/lungs have a different idea, and Jeff bridges nicely up leaving me in the same position.

 Ugh! Now I've got to get up there, or I'm on my own. I keep them close for another half lap, but then the gap starts to open, and I'm sitting all alone in eighth place.... out of nine.

The rest of the race was pretty mundane. I knew there was still one guy behind me, and I kept waiting to recover so I'd be able to make it back up to John and Jeff, but it never happened. With about 4 laps in, I started to see the guy behind me. This concerned me, and I was able to push it a bit more to try to avoid getting caught.

With three to go, I saw Paul Martin. My goal for this year was to avoid getting lapped by Paul, and it wasn't looking good for today. I was able to see Paul catch Dave in ninth, and Dave gave an effort to hang on his wheel. If he could hold on, then even my eighth place would be in jeopardy. So I poured on some more to try to stay away. It wasn't long before Paul had left Dave, and I only had to worry about holding off getting lapped.

Paul caught me about 3/4 of the way through the lap... and I come through with only one to go now. Not happy, but I decide I'll do my best to not let anyone else pass me. With only one lap left, my only hope to move up is to actually catch and pass Paul. Instead my goal becomes finishing the race strong, and at least be able to say that I was only caught by one guy.

At the finish, guys trickled in one at a time. Paul still put a minute and a half into me before the end of the lap, and I finished a minute ahead (and one lap down) of Zak in second place. The most exciting finish was for 6th place. Jeff attacked on the last lap and held off John, which made me happy as I had a hand in getting him to John's wheel.


So eighth place, just like my wife predicted. The good news is the low turn out has me in sixth place on the series points. The key to this is only showing up every week. So if I can make the next four races, I may be able to hold onto this The down side of low turn outs is that I'm not racing against anyone. With another 10 guys in the field, I probably would have fallen into another chase group and been able to recover a bit, and maybe make it back up a place. It wouldn't have been for eighth, but it would have been more fun than a lonely time trial for 5 laps. And I may have been able to remain on the lead lap.

Unfortunately, they didn't post finish times for the B race this weekend. So I can't compare my times with how the B race went. Well, maybe that isn't so bad. I'm not sure I want to know.


Time 58:02
 HRM (min/avg/max)
 7 Laps
12.8 miles


Next week is the 'cross extravaganza! Three races in one weekend. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And the weather forecast? Cold and snow! Looks like we'll get some real cyclocross conditions this year. I'm planning on getting on the bike a bit more this week, so hopefully I'll have some legs. I wonder what they'll feel like on Sunday. Could be a painful weekend.




Monday, November 14, 2005

Bike Authority Cyclocross Series 2 - Boughton Farm

November 13, 2005

It ain't easy racing A's. I've got a total mind change going here. Last year, I was at the front (well, almost) for most of the races. I was chasing guys that were super strong, and working on consistancy to take the series points race. This year, my goals are to do the best I can, and do my level best to finish on the lead lap. No small feat either. Last week I made it because the laps were 2.1 miles long and I only made it by a short disance.

This week, we're at Boughton Farm. This is at least the third (fourth?) time I've raced here in three seasons. It's a real working farm, with cabbage, peppers and pumkins in the fields. We race around the tractor paths, and through the wood stands between the fields. The trails are pretty rutted up from both flowing water, and tractor wheels, but there are good lines, if you plan ahead.

The Course 

The course starts going through and around the north field. The trail through is pretty rutted up, so you have to concentrate almost as soon as your moving. Coming around the back of the field is the first of two nasty false flat rises. Over the rise on the back end, we twist between the fields and into the first barrier set. This time, I think they had regulation height, because they sure seemed high.

After the barriers, we finished the north field, and started down the south. We twist south through a couple of single track sections... very tight single track, with a barrier set on a short incline between them. This set was very spread out, so we were running the bike between the barrier jumps. A few more  turns through the woods, and we head around the south end of the field into the second false flat rise. This one was a little moist, so tended to suck the life out of the wheels. We finished the lap with four field crossings that were pretty fast hard pack before taking the tractor road back to the finish line.

Again we were looking at a long course close to 1.8 miles. This is good for me as it would help me hold off getting lapped by the stinking fast A racers.

Very little rain this week, so the course was mostly dry. Being mostly flat, I turned it into another family outing. The kids would race the C race, then hang out while I did the A's. It was really nice to see the junior turn out this week. I think there were about 10 under 16's out there today.

B/C Race 

So, the format for this is a 12:00 start time for the B race, then they let the C's go a few minutes later. SnakeBite had 3 in the B field. Brett coming off a third place last week, Pat was looking for a top 10 this week after just missing it last week, and Todd couldn't resist racing in his backyard. There has been really good turn outs with 42 Bs last week, and 43 this week.

50 degrees or so and overcast, threatening skies with some nasty winds. We'll see if we get any true cross weather.

Off they went, and the first wreck happened about 500 meters from the start. Lots of B's learned about the importance of the hole shot there.  Turns out last weeks winner went down hard, and took a trip to the ER to check for a broken collar bone. 

One lap in, and Brett is off the front with Matt from Lake Effect. Pat and Todd are in the first chase group, though they wouldn't see Matt or Brett again. Brett worked hard, but Matt got the gap and Brett finished second. Pat raced hard for a top 10 with Todd following close behind.

My kids did alright. All three were lapped by the B's before they finish the first lap. My youngest had the hardest day, sliding out on the tractor road close to the end of the first lap, she called it a day. The other two finished the second lap, one down on the C race winner.

 A Race

On to my main event. I did some warm up laps with Jeff from Honey-Stinger and Ryan from Spin. We were down a few A racers as some of them decided to try their hand in the B field, so the three of us would be close to back markers if we didn't improve much on last week. It was me, Ryan and Jeff finishing at the back of the lead lap. 50+ degrees, and I was hot with the base layer and arm warmers, so I dropped them before the start. Then lining up, we're all getting cold.

Usual suspects are out, in a field of about 20. John Lorson from Orrville moved into the A field this week. He set up a geared bike for the race, and was warning us it was s shake down cruise so watch out for falling parts. Brett was getting crazy (like I have been) and jumped in for a double does of pain.  

At the wistle, we're off. I'm not going like crazy, after seeing the first lap wreck in the B's, I want to make it through the day unscathed. I had some lines picked out, and intended on starting smooth, and moving up through the field. I've been feeling good in training this week, so I'm hoping for a better result than my 12th last week, at least percentage wise.

At the north end of the first field, the first casualty is in, Shawn Adams is running the bike with a broken chain. Tough way to start the day, as he's been going really well this year. Through the first false flat, and Ryan comes by me... it's a long race, so I'm wondering if he's going to blow up again like last week. Jeff is still on my wheel, and we've got a few guys behind us including Brett. I'm keeping Ryan close, as we start to settle into sorting out the field.

Then the carnage starts. Lorson drops his chain for the first of many times. So we pass him. Then Steve from Solon gets caught up with a mechanical, and we're by him. So I'm moving up on the field because of mechanical difficulties, but I'll take that.

Coming through the second false flat, it's looking like Ryan is already into difficulty. So I decide to try my luck at the front. Through for the first lap, and I'm sitting around mid pack. I pushed it a bit more through the start/finish and opened a small gap on Ryan and Jeff. Making the turn through the fields, I glance back to check the gap, and find myself in an erosion rut... I make it out quickly, and take note to find the lines before checking behind me.

About half way through the second lap, Mike Gorman from StarkVelo comes around me, and I decide to try and stick with him for a bit. It's work, but I open the gap on Ryan and Jeff some more before I fall off Goreman's pace. He's reelling in Ross from Solon faster than I can get there. So we're moving into the stable part of the race.

2 laps of 8 down, and I've got a gap behind and one ahead. Gorman is opening it up on Ross, and it looks like I'm closing in on him.

3 laps in, and Ryan is gone from behind me. Jeff is being persistant, but not really moving up on me much. At one switch back, he tells me Ryan went down. Gorman is gone, but I'm holding the gap to Ross steady. I think I can pull him back. So that's my goal now. I'm close enough to watch his barrier form, and he does not look comfortable. So I should be able to make up ground through the technical stuff... oh, if only there were more than two dismounts.

On the fourth lap, I drop my chain on the second barrier set. I get it reset lightning fast, but that doesn't help me mentally. Now I've lost ground I already had, and Jeff has a little bonus. 'Cross is the sport of limiting losses, and I just lost more than I'm used to.

Then things start getting interesting. At the end of the fourth lap, I see Goreman going backwards. Ross catches him, and I'm closing in. He's been known to have back trouble, and it looks to be back big time. At the start finish, I pass him as he's climbing off.

Behind me Steve from Solon has pulled Jeff back in. The only reason he's back there is a mechanical, and he's slowly making progress. By 3/4 of the way through the 5th lap, he's caught me. As he comes around, I tell myself "there is no way I'm giving up on this guy. He's going to have to work for this place." I sit on his wheel and work to stay there. 

Through the start finish, I'm doing alright holding on. This might work out, but now I've got a problem. I'm hoping Steve will pull me up to Ross, but they are on the same team. Will he do it? I start to wonder if he's going all out, so I come around and pull for a while. Steve is right there. Then he comes around again. Ross calls out that he can take me... so I dig a little deeper. 2 laps to go, and I'm still on his wheel through the start finish. I get a better line in the field, and push hard to get a gap... and I do!

Actually, I'm quickly pulling Ross back in! I catch him at the barriers. Of course, I flub the one that will put me in front. So I'm following him through the single track. I'm actually able to hold on for the two tight sections, which surprises me, as Ross is an expert mountain biker. I again blow the chance to pull ahead of him on the second barrier set. Then heading into the south end of the field, he starts to open the gap again. I've been railing, and figure a little recovery time is in order. Oh I hope we're getting close to the end!

Sure enough, one to go... now I want to try to close that gap up again. It looks like Steve is pretty far back, so I'm not going to worry about holding this place, I only want to recatch Ross. But he stays clean through everything, and holds me off. I'm well ahead of Steve for 10th place. A top 10 in the A's!


After coming through the line, my youngest comes up with a pack of M&M's for me. So I even get some spoils for my work. Very nice having the family cheering me on throughout the race.

10th place is good for me. I'm hoping to continue to improve throughout the series. I was very pleased that I could hold onto Steve as he came up to me. Unfortunately, that probably means I have to work on my mental aspects. I held on, and was able to drop him. Could I have gone harder, and maybe picked up another place earlier? Kind of like Kivalev being able to follow Ullrich in the tour time trial. 

Talking to Jeff afterward, he again held off Paul Martin so he finished on the lead lap. He said he knew that once Steve caught me, we would be gone. So he tried like crazy to hang on. Nice to learn that Jeff knows me that well... and knows I wasn't going all out I guess.

Every week is a learning experience. So I've got some things to take away from this week. I probably should have shouldered the bike through the long barrier set. I ended up carrying a bottle that I didn't touch until I climbed off. The only reason it was there was that I didn't expect to have to carry any section. Of course, I didn't think of the carry until hours after the race was over, and I was analyzing the dropped chain.

Starting about the fourth lap, I had some serious hand numbness going on. Only the right hand, but it was almost dead numb. Looks like I've got some work to do on my position, or something. I tend to ride in the drops, but was forced to the hoods more than I wanted to be in the second half of the race. Could that have given me enough for a place? It did pretty much stop once I dropped Steve, so I was happy I didn't loose a place because of it. 

Here are the stats:
8 laps
1.8 miles/lap
Min/Avg/max HR  158/168/175 (ouchies, my max isn't that far off)
14.8 miles

Paul Martin won in 59:+, so I was only about 6 minutes off the winning pace. It's a goal... I was about 15 seconds back from 9th, and about a minute back from 8th. More work for me this week.

Next weekend, back to Bay Village, and the sledding hill run up. Whoohoo! Hopefully, we'll have more barriers than last week.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

BA Cyclocross Race 1 - 2005

November 5, 2005
Bay Village

Cyclocross season enters full swing for the Cleveland area with the Bike Authority/October Hill-Lake Effect Cyclocross series. This year it will be 7 races in 5 weeks with a big Thanksgiving 'cross weekend consisting of 3 races in 3 days. The first race of the series was held on the south side of Cahoon Park in Bay Village. I've been successful at this course winning the B race here last year, so I'm hoping for good things today.

Big changes for me this year. Last year I picked up my first win in the B race, I also won the points series with consistent racing in the top 5. I was also jumping into the A race immediately following the B's for training. I'd get shelled in the A's, but that wasn't why I was doing it. This year, I've made a commitment to racing the A races only, just to see where I stack up against the best crossers in Cleveland.

It turns out that the fields have pretty large ability spread. The C race is supposed to be for beginner racers, the B race is intermediate, for cat 4/5 roadies and sport mountain bikers and the A race is a 1/2/3/Expert race. The race category is self selected though, so there are often experts and cat 3's in the B field... so the back of the fields can easily be 1 or 2 laps down on the winner. But you can't sandbag an A race. I know exactly who I'll be racing against. The cool thing about 'cross (and mountain biking as well) is even if you're not racing at the front of the field, you are racing against similar abilities. The races usually spread out pretty quickly after the start, and you will be racing against guys close to you. Can I hold the guy behind me off? Can I bring the guy in front back? So I know that my podium places will be pretty non-existant, but I'll still be racing. I don't do this for the winnings anyway, I ride and race to get that competitive fix.

So my goals for this year are pretty simple. I want to see where I am in the A field, and can I move my position up. Each race I have one main goal... can I finish on the lead lap? I'm running from Paul Martin every week. At the SnakeBite Race, he lapped me twice (as did the top 8 riders) though it was my second race, and I was not at my physical best that day. My other goal is top 10... since these races are usually lightly attended with about 20 riders being typical, midpack would be really nice.

The Course

Big changes to the course this time. We actually crossed parking roads in three locations. The big features were the sledding hill run up, always a fun section, and a bunch of grass/pavement transistions. Cross is a race of transitions, and we had them today. I think we went from grass to pavement 10 times with two small sections of gravel. All these transitions took their toll on the B field with at least 5 flats out of the field of 41 racers.It turns out there is nothing really hard about this course beside the pavement transitions. We've got the one run up, and one set of barriers. There is one sharp little off camber rise, and everything else is flat. one turn is a bit chewed up, and may require hanging a leg out, but the course looks to be mostly power riding. My teammate, Brett even thought he'd be in the big ring for most of his race.

The other big feature is it's a long course. At about 2.1 miles it's near the standard length limit for a cross race. The long course is good for me, as it gives me more time to hold off getting lapped. The Chagrin River course was about as short as they get, and there were quite a few of us lapped twice.


Well the team did well in the B field. 41 racers, Brett came in third, and Pat came in 11th. I did a couple of warmup laps during the B race, and followed Pat around for one. Oh, what fun to watch someone suffer like that.

I'm comming off less than optimal preparation. Three weeks ago, I had been doing lots of cross practice, and lots of intervals. Then I got sick, and crashed a few times. The last one really hurt me, so I haven't been doing any real intensity since the last race I did. I really have no idea how I'll be going today. I also forgot my HRM chest strap, so I won't have a record of my efforts. First A only race, and I've got enough excuses to make me optimistic for the future.

The Race

Being an effective A newbie, I figured there was no sense in lining up at the front. Turns out we lined up with just about everyone up front though, so I was on the front line. Pretty impressive field of 18. I recognized way to many guys that would be in front of me, but I knew who I'd be racing against. Shawn Adams talked Linda, the official, into shortening the race, so we'd only race for about an hour, and we were off!

The first obstacle was really a 180 turn about 100 meters from the start, then another about 200 meters later. I ended up with a good start and was 5th at the first turn without too much effort. I was really surprised to be up there. By the second turn I was about 10th... and still feeling pretty well sitting on Rudy Sroka's wheel. Then more guys were going by me. I must of been about 16th as we got to the hill, and I was struck with how many guys were at the top and heading back down before I was even at the bottom. Not where I'm used to being. The remainder of the lap, I spent picking off a few guys and moving into a group with John Reade and Jeff Cartledge from Honey-Stinger.

Being in a new race group, I've got to totally change my race strategy. I'm used to racing aggresively from the start. Sprint to the first obstical, see who's made it with me, then sit in with them until I see an opening to push it more... or fall off as happened at the Chagrin River race. Now I've got to be careful not to completely blow up and start moving backwards, but still be agressive enough to get the best result possible. So, I decided to sit in this group and see what happens. I probably stayed in for a lap while John pulled, then I came around and started pushing it a bit. John fell back to the next group, while Jeff hung onto my wheel.

Up ahead I could see Chris Aron from OctoberHill/Lake Effect, and Ryan Williams from Spin was ahead of him. We settle into this for a lap or so, then Jeff started to fall off my wheel. Now we're in the "status quo" portion. I've got the gap to Chris pegged, and Jeff is pretty much staying where he is. I can see a group of four a ways further back, and Ryan further up ahead.

We're pretty constant for about 3 laps. Every time up the hill, Chris is just starting the descent. I think I'll try to bring him back with 2 to go... I'm not sure how this happened but on the fifth time up the hill, Chris just disappeared. I never saw the gap open, but I came off the bridge leading to the hill, and he wasn't there... I had a little trouble on the hill toward the second barrier set, so Jeff closed in a bit, but Chris was seriously out of site. As I came around the parking lot, I asked the marshal where he was, and was told he;s way ahead of me! Wow. When I next saw him, he was with Ryan.

This did my race no good at all. Without that gap to match, I was having trouble maintaining my effort, so Jeff started to peg me back. Sixth time to the hill, he almost had me, but I opened the gap a bit on the run up to hold him off and was further up into the barriers. So I wasn't too worried about loosing a spot. I could then see that Chris had left Ryan, and I was bringing Ryan back. This helped me a lot. Now my goal was to catch Ryan before the finish.

I was not sure when I'd hear the bell (as I was still pretty unsure of how long the race would really go), so I figured as soon as I could hear the bell, I would push it hard for the last lap and a half or so. Coming out onto the off camber incline, I could hear the bell so I started pushing the pace a bit more. Jeff was olding his gap constant and Ryan was slowly coming back. The gap to Chris was still getting larger though.

When I was about a half mile from the finish, I saw Paul Martin behind Jeff. Woah!!!! I cannot let him catch me before I get to the finish line! I need to finish on the same lap as he is.... then if he catches Jeff, I don't have to worry about him, but I don't want my race to end before I'm on the bell lap. I pretty much bury it... racing to the line against Paul. I was almost sure he wasn't going to catch me, but I need to be sure. I make it through the line, and take a bit of a recovery.... that was work.

Coming out onto the sledding hill, Ryan is at the top. Ryan and I have gone at it before, so we both knew that I was going to turn myself inside out to catch him... and he was going to do all to prevent it. Unfortunately for him, this was a long course... and he was blown. I pegged him back at about the halfway point, and attacked him hard with about half a mile to go. He had nothing left, so I finished with about 30 seconds. About a minute behind Chris for 12th.


7 laps in 1:11, 16.7 miles, average speed was 13.9, max speed of 27.4. 12th place out of 18. Not exactly where I wanted to be, but not bad for a first go at the A race. Given the last three weeks of training, I figure I have a good chance of improving my fitness and hope the percentages will improve over the series. We'll see how it goes.

This was the first cross course that I consistantly was using the big ring. It may be related to teh 38/48 rings I have, so I'm now thinking about going back to the single ring, or maybe changing my rings to a 42/48. I had removed the single ring two years ago, because I was bogging down on hills I knew I could climb better then guys ahead of me. Two years of training, and I'm hoping it will make me faster now. We'll also see if the equipment change will help.

The "controversy"

Interesting detail: The B race and the A race both did 7 laps. How can this be when the A race is supposed to be 60+1? Well, we had two things reduce our lap.

First, they moved the finish line about a half lap closer to the start. So the B race actually did 6.5 laps and the A race did 7.

Second, they shorted the A race. Paul Martin finished in just over an hour. I think the winner of the B field finished in 65 minutes. That's what happens when the leader goes through the line at 44.5 minutes, and you have close to 10 minute long laps.

Next up...

Next week, we go to the Boughton Farm. A fun flatter course at a working farm... stay away from the produce!